The Duchess of Cornwall has helped launch two National Literacy Trust digital platforms for parents and teachers to support children affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
According to the trust, school closures during the pandemic could see the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers widen by up to 75% in 16 months.
To help children who have fallen behind with their literacy and safeguard their access to books, the trust has launched a Virtual School Library to give every primary schoolchild in the UK access to books all year round. Meanwhile its new Words for Life website will provide families with fun activities to support their children’s literacy at home. Kindred2, a charitable foundation, has supported the creation of both sites.
In a video, recorded during a visit to Ivydale Primary School in London last week, the Duchess launched the Virtual School Library. The project will provide all primary schoolchildren in the UK with a free ebook or audiobook, an exclusive video and engaging activities from a different children’s author or illustrator every week. Partnerships are in place with publishers including Bloomsbury, Bonnier Books UK and Penguin Random House.
Its first guest school librarians are children’s authors Greg James and Chris Smith who have shared a video, a free audiobook from their Kid Normal series (Bloomsbury Children’s Books), some literacy activities and their top three recommended children’s books.
The Duchess of Cornwall said: “I love libraries. They are absolute treasure troves of knowledge, wisdom and hope. Enter a library and you will suddenly find you are able to walk through wardrobes and pop out of rabbit holes and play quidditch and maybe even steal the crown jewels… I am delighted to launch the National Literacy Trust’s Virtual School Library. What a fantastic idea it is: a library that enables us to read books online, meet authors, see inside their writing rooms and enjoy reading activities – all from our own armchairs. I know children will have a fabulous time exploring it.”
At Words for Life, parents and families can expect themed book lists, quizzes, creative activities, tips and advice to help children of all ages to improve their reading, writing and communication skills from home.
The website brings together all of the National Literacy Trust’s existing digital support for parents in one place, including the charity’s Family Zone, which supported more than 400,000 families with home learning resources during lockdown, and its Small Talk website, developed in partnership with the Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds campaign, which provides parents of children under five with simple activities to build into their daily routines to support their children’s early language development.
Jonathan Douglas, c.e.o. of the National Literacy Trust, said: “We must do everything we can to support the literacy, learning and wellbeing of all children as they return to school after such a significant disruption to their education, particularly those who have been hit the hardest. As the nation marks 150 years of state education, the new school year will see a marked change in how children are taught, with blended learning at school and at home, so we must also adapt how we support children, teachers and families through this transition.”